Cardiff University enhances palliative care postgraduate courses

Categories: Education.

Cardiff has been delivering its International Postgraduate Diploma and MSc courses in palliative care since 1989.  The course became multi-professional in 2007, reflecting the diverse need for Masters level education in many palliative care teams.  The teams are proud of the achievements of the course and its contribution to the international palliative care community – many of the alumni currently hold senior positions of responsibility and significance in global palliative care.

Through the first two decades, the course retained a structure of small modules changing from posted paper materials to online learning when advancing technology developed the e-learning phenomenon. Being able to study directly relevant material in the workplace was an essential part of the creation of the course, reducing the need for time away from a team for study, and by making the work case-based, enhancing depth and retention of knowledge.

With the advent of many of the postgraduate courses becoming 20 credit modules, with the possible future option of standalone CPD modules, the time had come for a further development for Cardiff. The process of change has taken over three years of engagement, consultation, creative thinking, innovation and planning. The vision of the Postgraduate course delivery team is to deliver effective accessible education – the aim is always to improve care for palliative patients.

Building the new course

The course remains multi-professional and is delivered by blended learning: face-to-face teaching at the start of the academic year followed by online activities. The face-to-face content delivers material suited to peer-based learning: peer review and feedback, communication skills, ethics discussions and workshops on symptom control, developing business cases and strategy. Starting the year with face-to-face study time creates the networks among students that will continue online.

The Diploma stage takes two years but the team hope that many students will continue for the third year  (MSc) in which either an original research project, or an original quality improvement project is undertaken and written up as the dissertation. The team is excited about this development – we hope that this may help to develop sustainable resilient systems in global palliative care teams in a robust evidence-based way.

The paediatric palliative care content continues to be a key feature.  There is material incorporated throughout the course and the third module around ethical, legal and complex care challenges in this area.

The education material is new and varied – media includes re-recording the old audiocassette lectures as podcasts, and links to other talks and short films.

Building the skills of the team

The course team has built up a wealth of experience over the years around different aspects of palliative care education and delivery, working on separate projects in addition to the Cardiff University work. Team members have, for example been developing free online materials for Africa and India’s oncology community, developing initiatives for improving communication skills in end of life care and producing a short video about recognising spinal cord compression.

Developing the academic team is part of the Cardiff ethos; we are using this principle to provide recognised professional development opportunities for anyone involved in the course as a marker, an examiner or a supervisor.  We use the GMC guidance ‘Promoting excellence’ as a basis for creating and delivering CPD for markers and supervisors who match the standards.

Building the culture

There is frequent consultation and review with past students and a wide community of palliative health care professionals.  We try to support students presenting their research or other project work at International conferences and we link with other areas of Cardiff University, including the Marie Curie Palliative Care research centre, to share and build expertise.

We are building a presence on social media and at conferences. We held a very successful Silver Jubilee celebration in 2014 and are hoping to mark 30 years of delivering palliative care education from Cardiff in 2019.  In this way, we aim to develop a thriving educators’ community in addition to providing Masters level education.

For more information about palliative care courses visit Cardiff University.